Month: December 2013

New Year’s resolutions for homeowners


The end of the year is always a great time to reflect on the past year and look forward to the new one. Many people signify this fresh start with a New Year’s resolution. If you’re a homeowner, here are a few resolutions you may want to consider for your home.

Save energy

There are some simple ways to save energy (and a few bucks). Turning down your thermostat when you’re at work or sleeping is a great first step. A better option is to replace it with a programmable thermostat that will remember to do it for you.

Keep your home safe

Many people install new batteries in their smoke detectors on the day the time changes in the fall and spring. Did you forget? Make it a point to ensure that you have fresh batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Don’t have a carbon monoxide detector? They are fairly inexpensive and as easy to install as a smoke alarm. While you’re at it, check to make sure your fire extinguishers are in working order.

Help the environment

Whether your community requires it or not, recycling helps the environment and is everyone’s responsibility. Save water by repairing dripping faucets, installing low-flow showerheads, and replacing old toilets with new water saving or dual-flush models. When buying new appliances or electronic equipment, be sure they carry the federal Energy Star seal for energy efficiency.

Save money

Home maintenance projects can help you prolong the life of your home and make things more efficient, and therefore, save you money in the long run. Changing the air filter on your central air unit every month or two helps you save energy and allows your system to run more efficiently. If you still have a standard water heater, draining the tank once a year removes any sediment buildup, which can make it last longer and work more efficiently.

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What to do with holiday party leftovers


‘Tis the season and we are in full swing. This time of the year is hectic for many: You may be finishing up end-of-the-year projects, shopping, taking vacation time, or planning to host a holiday party or two.

When hosting a party, there’s always going to be leftover food and drink. Of course, you don’t want to just throw everything out – what a waste of money!

If you don’t want to live off of party food for the next week, or you don’t want everything taking up valuable refrigerator space, here are some suggestions to save those leftovers so they won’t go to waste.

Pro tip

Make sure you have plenty of storage containers and zip lock freezer baggies before the party. It makes cleaning up and storing easier.

Send some home with guests

Use zip lock bags and disposable containers to send leftovers home with guests.

Leftovers for quick meals

Think quiches, wraps, tacos, omelets, scrambled eggs with diced up turkey or ham in it. These can be for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Freeze in small portions for quicker defrost.

Share with a shut-in

If you have a neighbor, friend or relative who can’t get out, plan on taking them a plate before or after the meal. It’s a good idea to send them enough to make a couple of meals for themselves.

Some creative repurposing

  • Club Soda

Don’t throw out flat club soda; instead, use it to hydrate houseplants. The phosphate in it is good for growth and root development.

  • Wine

You can freeze cubes of leftover wine for later use in recipes. Red and white wine are especially good for Italian sauces.

  • Candy Canes

Use candy canes as drink stirrers, or crush them to make peppermint sugar, which can be used throughout the year.

  • Bread

Make bread crumbs or seasoned croutons.

  • Cheese

Hard cheese can be grated and frozen. Soft cheese is great for making sauces and grilled cheese sandwiches. Cheese based soups and fondues are also a good option.

There’s no reason to let leftovers go to waste. Armed with some knowledge, a little creativity and plenty of storage containers, there’s no reason to throw out much.

Making your home safe for a newborn


One of the biggest concerns you will have as a homeowner and new parent is childproofing your home. Each year, more than four million children are injured in the home. Parents can prevent many common serious childhood injuries by knowing where the dangers are and how to protect children from them.

Here are some tips to help make your home safe for your newborn.

1. Take the guesswork out of bath time

You may like to take a hot shower, but a baby doesn’t. Turn down the water heater so the temperature doesn’t go above 110.

2. Install a toilet lock

Babies are fascinated by water. Watching them playing in bathwater is one thing; hearing them splashing in toilet water is another.

3. Glass doors

Put decals on your glass doors so they are clearly visible and that no one will run into them.

4. Door knob covers

To prevent children from going into rooms they shouldn’t, you should install door-knob covers so your little one can’t open them.

5. Windows

Install window guards so that windows can’t open more than six inches

6. Near the Window

Don’t place cribs, playpens, high chairs or climbable furniture anywhere near the windows.

7. Cords

Tie up the cords to blinds so that a child doesn’t get tangled up in them.

8. Shatter proof

Install safety glass in low windows and French doors so they won’t shatter if a child falls into them.

9. Eliminate shock

Be sure to fill any unused outlets with safety plugs, including outlets behind and beneath furniture that may be overlooked.

10. Set the fireplace off-limits

Be sure to surround your hearth with some kind of cushiony barrier — think couch cushions, pillows or even a store-bought barricade.

11. Baby gates

As soon as babies start crawling, the stairways in your home become an accident waiting to happen. Install a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs to prevent them from heading up, as opposed to placing it at the top, because eventually they will climb up a gate, meaning they would from an even greater height.

12. Clear stairways

Keep the stairs clear of toys and other objects that you might trip over while carrying the baby.

13. Secure furniture

Eliminate any unstable furniture that your baby can pull over. Fasten bookcases to the wall so they can’t be pulled down when they start to climb.

14. Drawers

Keeping drawers shut is important for two reasons. They offer an easy thing to climb and they can be shut on fingers.

15. Poisons

The culprits here are medications and cleaning products. Use childproof locks for your low cabinets, like underneath the sink. Move medications to the highest shelves.

16. Kitchen safety

The kitchen presents the most danger to a toddler. It is imperative that you don’t let your baby play at your feet while you are cooking, but they may still wander in when you are busy. Here are some kitchen safety tips.

  • Turn the handles of pots and pans toward the back of the stove or counter.
  • Use the back burners for cooking whenever possible.
  • Never leave a boiling pot or sizzling skillet unattended on the stove.
  • Teach your child that the oven is “hot” and not to touch it.
  • Keep plug-in appliances, such as toasters and can openers, put away where your child can’t reach them.

17. Cover your pool

If you have a pool or a hot tub, invest in a good, sturdy cover.

Remember that baby-proofing changes as your child develops new capabilities and curiosities. Get down at your baby’s level and check things out at their eye level.

Safety tips for fireplaces


If you’re in the market for a new home, no doubt you made the list of features that you want in your dream home. For many, a fireplace is one of those must haves.

Of course, there are several reasons to want a fireplace. From a practical standpoint, it is a cost-effective way to provide heat during the winter. It becomes a focal point for the gathering of friends and family, lending ambiance to the room it is in. At this time of year, it becomes a place for many homeowners to hang decorations during the holiday season.

There is, of course, a price to be paid for the warmth and memories. Every homeowner has to keep safety issues at top of mind when it comes to having a fireplace. You’ll keep your fireplace safe and operating properly and safely if you keep these safety tips in mind:

Keep it clean

Depending upon how often you use your fireplace, it is recommended that chimneys be swept at least once a year. Find a certified chimney sweep to come out in the late fall or early winter to remove soot and debris.

Check for damage

In addition to cleaning, most chimney sweeps should inspect the chimney structure for cracks, loose bricks or missing mortar when they are on the roof. In addition, chimney liners should be checked for damage.

Cap the chimney

In order to keep debris, birds and small animals from entering the chimney, a cap is placed on the chimney. The cap also needs to be examined for damage when the sweep is there.

What you burn makes a difference

Hardwoods include dense woods such as oak, hickory, ash and some fruit woods. “Seasoned” implies that the wood has been split and stored to dry for at least six months. Green woods and soft woods produce a flammable by-product called creosote, which can build up in the chimney and become flammable.

Building it right

Small fires generate less smoke and less creosote build-up. Additionally, a fire that is too large or too hot can damage the chimney. Logs should be placed at the rear of the fireplace on a metal grate. Don’t use flammable liquids to start the fire.

Use a spark guard

Even seasoned wood can crackle and pop. You can prevent embers from shooting out of the firebox with a mesh metal screen or glass fireplace doors.